Packing Essentials for the First Time Travel Nurse

Traveling NurseIf there is one thing I have learned in my travels; it is to embrace minimalism. On my first assignment I tried to pack my entire apartment. It was like I was moving out entirely. I packed every photo, piece of clothing, pair of shoes, cleaning item, and on and on. With each subsequent assignment I realized that I did not need my vacuum, pots, pans, or dishes. I learned to use what I was given. That being said, there are a few musts that should be on every travel nurse’s packing list. 

File Folder & Paperwork

Don’t forget your license, certifications, and agency contract. Be sure to thoroughly read your contract so you are not caught by surprise working mandatory overtime. Buy a folder that you can keep all of these documents together and in one place. You want to have all of this neatly organized and accessible.

Uniform & Accessories

Find out if you can wear your own uniform or if it is unit assigned. Save packing space and leave your uniforms behind if they are not needed. Bring one pair of your favorite work shoes to keep the packing light. Don’t forget your favorite stethoscope. Many units across the country provide stethoscopes, but not necessarily of the best quality.


If your first assignment is in Florida in the summer, you probably don’t need to pack boots. Pack lightly and intelligently. If you will be living by the beach, a pair of flip flops, shorts, and tanks will suffice.


If you are anything like me, it just does not feel like home if you leave your pillow, sheets, and comforter behind. It is important to bring with you some comfort items from back home that give a sense of familiarity. It is also worth it to purchase an egg crate mattress or mattress pad for your temporary bed.

Storage Containers

Invest in some clear, reusable storage containers so that you can organize your belongings. Reusable containers are better than boxes in that you can see where you have packed everything. They can be used again and again as you travel.

Something Sentimental

Choose a few small items to take with you that remind you of home. Pack your favorite photo, candle, or magnets for the fridge. This way you will not feel like a complete stranger in your new environment. If you are traveling alone, some days can feel lonely until you meet up with other travelers and make friends. 

Local Guide

Download The Lonely Planet app or purchase the book in any bookstore to get a head start on your host city. If you are journeying to a smaller, more remote city, look up the city online for tips. A great ice breaker in your new unit is to pick the brains of your fellow coworkers. The locals are almost always welcoming and love sharing their ideas of the best restaurants, bars, or theaters. Make the most of your free time.

Hope these easy tips help you get ready for your first assignment. Be positive, be open, and most of all, have a great time! Traveling can open your world up and take you places you never even imagined. Take it from me, I started traveling ten years ago and it has since landed me permanently overseas. Best of luck to you!

Lori is a travel nurse that has made her way to Sweden. She is also a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher. Follow her adventures working and traveling through Europe in her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.

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